Nicklas Backstrom is a mild-mannered Swede who shuns the spotlight. That’s why I’m here today to shine that light bright on him.
Early in the second period, the NHL’s reigning first star of the week made a fantastic defensive play, knocking a breakout pass by Conor Sheary out of mid-air. At real speed, it’s cool. The play takes about a half a second to happen.
But in super slo-mo, Backstrom’s thievery is amazing. How exactly did he DO that?
Backstrom pivots and opens up to the breaking-out Penguins at neutral. He anticipates the direction of the pass, a lob to Sidney Crosby sprinting towards the Caps’ defensive zone. Backstrom catches the puck right on the meaty party of his stick – the heel – and bunts it towards Alex Ovechkin who is peeling out of the Penguins zone.
Not only does Backstrom’s play prevent a possible prime scoring chance by one of the game’s best players, it gave the Caps one of their own authored by Alex Ovechkin.
Backstrom makes many of these plays every night. Sometimes they change games. Yet Backstrom does not end up as a finalist for a year-end award like the Selke (best defensive forward) because no one talks about this. I am here to talk about this. In fact, I’m screaming it from my figurative blog rooftop.
If you’re a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (not from the DC chapter), please watch a few Capitals games in the second half of this season. I promise, you will learn that Backstrom’s more than the dude who passes the puck to Ovechkin. He’s a center-man who is at the top of his game defensively, and a big part of why the Capitals are in first place in the NHL standings.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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